In 1306, the renowned Florentine artist Giotto di Bondone was called to Padua by Enrico Scrovegni to paint the interior of the Capella dell’Arena in expiation of the crimes of Enrico’ s father, the infamous usurer Reginaldo Scrovegni. As with any historical figure of genius, there is something legendary about Giotto. Not even the seven intervening centuries of historical research and factual documentation can eliminate the superhuman quality that he acquired in his own lifetime. In the same way, there is something mystical about the frescoes of the Arena Chapel. Giotto’ s work there so differs from both the style of his master, Cimabue, and the typical renderings of the biblical and apocryphal texts that it becomes apparent that this is an exceptional work done for a patron of singular needs and tastes. The entire decorative complex of the Arena Chapel reflects both Giotto’ s artistic genius and the unique requirements of Enrico Scrovegni, his patron.
In addition to the plethora of traditional written analyses on the decorative scheme of the Arena Chapel (Ursula Schlegel, Millard Meiss, Dorothy Shorr), there are three unique works by Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona, Robert Rough, and Andrew Ladis that elaborate on the established theme of usury and put forth alternative ideas of what originally inspired the interior ornamentation. Each of these theories are quite interesting on their own, yet there has been no work that combine them all into a coherent system. By uniting the work of such illustrious academics, this thesis looks to unite both traditional and original theories into a comprehensive study of the iconography of the Arena Chapel and it’ s relation to both Giotto’ s novel artistic style and the extraordinary needs and desires of his patron, Enrico Scrovegni.
Katherine Kunau, ’06 Preston, IA
Majors: Art, History
Sponsor: Howard Miller